Book: Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz
Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy
Be careful what you believe in.
Rudy’s life is flipped upside-down when his family moves to a remote island in a last attempt to save his sick younger brother. With nothing to do but worry, Rudy sinks deeper and deeper into loneliness and lies awake at night listening to the screams of the ocean beneath his family’s rickety house.
Then he meets Diana, who makes him wonder what he even knows about love, and Teeth, who makes him question what he knows about anything. Rudy can’t remember the last time he felt so connected to someone, but being friends with Teeth is more than a little bit complicated. He soon learns that Teeth has terrible secrets. Violent secrets. Secrets that will force Rudy to choose between his own happiness and his brother’s life..
I've never read Hannah Moskowitz's work before, though I'd heard great things about her contemporary writing. She's also a regular contributor to the AbsoluteWrite forum's YA sections (and an advocate of never holding back when it comes to language or content in YA -- her post on 'edgy YA' is well worth a read).
So when I heard she had a fantasy novel coming out nicknamed the "magic gay fish" story, I added it straight onto my preorder list. I wanted to try out her work, and that nickname sounded like it would be strange, shameless and right up my street.
Hannah's style is easy to read, dialogue-heavy and snappily paced. The dialogue feels very honest, which means very profane, and while some readers may find that off-putting I enjoy it. It makes for the most realistic teenage male narrator I've read in YA fiction.
There's only a small cast of main characters in this story, and they're all flawed and dysfunctional in one way or another. Rudy is a lonely boy, worrying about his future and his little brother, and Teeth is an ugly, angry fishboy who learned most of his words from the local fishermen and can barely construct a sentence without a f-bomb in it.
The secondary characters are less fleshed-out, which is a shame as I'd like to know more about some of the parents struggling on the island.
Trigger warning: There's also some very frank, bleak scenes of repetitive sexual abuse. This whole book is dark to the extreme, and though the abuse is portrayed extremely negatively I think it would be just too difficult and depressing for some readers.
The ending really caught me off-guard. The twist that led to it was brilliant, completely shocking me, but the actual closing chapter left me feeling disappointed. I wanted more of a sense of closure, and instead I got quite an abrupt cut-off.
I think the ending is supposed to tie into the underlying metaphors and hidden meanings in the story, but I wasn't reading this book for the metaphors about the environment or government -- they were nice elements, but not what drove me to pick this book up. Also (and I fully acknowledge that this is an issue with my personal tastes and expectations as a reader, not the writer's fault) I really wanted things to turn out differently.
Despite my dissatisfaction with the ending, I really loved Moskowitz's style and her way with describing characters. I hope to check out her contemporary YA very soon.
This book was a personal purchase. I have no connection to the writer or publishers involved.
Book: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina, Book 1
Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
Why is it that the books I really loved are always the hardest to review?
I usually try to keep my reviews balanced with the good and the bad, but it's so difficult for books like "Seraphina" when there really isn't anything to fault with it.
The dialogue was snappy, true-to-life and very quotable. The plot twists were great. The usual issues I get twitchy about (gender equality and representation of different sexualities and races) were comfortingly absent. As for the world building... oh boy, I could gush about the world building for hours. Every aspect of this book is richly written, from the background religions and cultures to the draconian species.
"Seraphina" is set in a world where, after a massive war between humans and dragons, a shaky treaty has brought peace and dragons now walk among humans in almost-human bodies. But when a member of the royal family is murdered in a draconic style, Seraphina (court musician, secret half-dragon, and generally awesome young lady) decides to help the young Prince investigate and find the murderer before the treaty falls apart.
It's no secret that I love dragons, and this book handles dragons with style and grace. You won't ever mix up a dragon character with a human one. They're inhuman even in their human disguises, lovers of maths, and they avoid our confusing human emotions at all costs along with pointless niceties like saying "hello" or "goodbye".
If you like dragons, pick this book up. If you like flawless high fantasy, pick this up. This is definitely one of the best YA books to come out of 2012.
A review copy of this novel was provided by Random House in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Random House!
Today, for their Road Trip Wednesday question for bloggers, YA Highway asked: What's the best book you've read this January?
Oooh, tough one when you look at everything I read last month...
I'm going to discount all the comics, which narrows it down to Pandemonium, Seraphina, and Teeth. Seraphina and Teeth are my clear favourites, but if I had to pick one... it'd be Seraphina.
It's just such a fun, refreshing YA fantasy, (whereas Teeth was a very dark read and quite ruthless with the emotions). My review should be up tomorrow!
Book: Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium, Book #2
Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Sci Fi/Dystopian/Romance
the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana
and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and fame.
I love that title, even though I always feel like it needs an exclamation. Pandemonium! It's such a great word:
I've had a complicated relationship so far with Lauren Oliver. While I loved her debut, "Before I Fall", and the concept of "Delirium", the actual book left me flat due to it's confusing ending. I also get grumpy about the UK cover redesigns, though "Pandemonium" and upcoming final book "Requiem" have much nicer covers and I've actually grown to like them and how they fit in with the "Before I Fall" cover.
Thankfully, "Pandemonium" was full of pleasant surprises. It's a much tighter-written and ambitious book than "Delirium" was, alternating between the past and the present as Lena adjusts to a hard, scraping-for-survival life in the unregulated Wilds outside the city ('before') and sneaks into New York City to tail the son of the president of Deliria-Free America, an organisation that viciously promotes the idea that love is a disease and the only safe humans are those 'cured' by a lobotomy-like procedure ('after').
Lena is a stronger person, even as she deals with her grief over "Delirium"'s events realistically, and she's a much more enjoyable character to follow this time round. Oliver also expands the world laid out in the previous novel, taken it from a sketched-out dystopia into a realistic future society with a lot of moral grey areas.
The scenery descriptions are nicely done, though occasionally repetitive (snow seems to crackle a lot in the Wilds), and the new characters introduced are varied and feel like they have a lot of depth to them. The two story lines also alternated nicely, with very little opportunity for confusion, up until the merging point which felt a bit unclearly defined.
I'm very happy with how "Pandemonium" turned out. While a lot of middle trilogy books can be weak and plotless, "Pandemonium" is miles stronger than "Delirium" and restored my faith in Lauren Oliver's writing. I'll be looking forward to reading and reviewing "Requiem" closer to its March release date.
I bought a copy of this novel myself for personal reading, but I'll note that Hodder & Stoughton have previously provided me with review copies of "Delirium" and "Requiem" in exchange for honest reviews.
Book: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.
But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.
I'm not usually much of a romance reader, but this book has received so much universal adoration that I had to give it a try. Plus, a fluffy romance book is a good read while travelling.
I've been describing this book to friends as "like a very smartly written chick flick", and now that I'm finished I think it's a very fitting description.
The story is a bit slow to start, but fantastic once it gets going -- it's a sweet, complex story of an American trying to find her way in Paris and all the interesting friends she makes in her year there.
It doesn't shy away from anything, delving head-first into fascinating character personalities and friendships, detailed backstories, and teen issues.
I'll be looking forward to picking up "Lola and the Boy Next Door" when I've whittled down my to-read piles.
Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Historical
I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.
I picked this book up due to the massive (and I mean MASSIVE) hype it's had around the Internet. And for the first third of the book, I was convinced it just wan't for me. It was slow and languous, and often needlessly confusing. I was fighting the urge to mark this down as 'Did Not Finish' and move on.
But I was determined to find out just what was so good about this book. I read on. And I got hooked.
The climatic half of this book is amazing. It's sensational. I just wish I'd be warned about that beginning so I knew to keep on plodding through.
But oh my, that second half. This is a meticulously crafted story, with a razor sharp eye for dialogue and historical details. I'm very glad I finished reading it.
Series: The Raven Cycle, Book 1
Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy
After receiving the advanced review copy of this book, I had a flick through the
first pages to get a glimpse of what I had to look forward to. Then I abandoned
the other books I was reading (sorry, Insurgent) and kept reading.
This book is the peak of Maggie’s writing so far: beautiful scenery, fast-paced
scenes, smooth action, and above all… the characters. She’s always been a strong
character writer, but The Raven Boys takes this all to a new level.
Every one of the characters is a crucial, fascinating part of the story. There’s
level-headed psychic’s daughter Blue and The Raven Boys, a motley crew of
private school students and best friends: obsessive researcher and richest of the
rich Gansey; trailer park kid on a scholarship Adam, Irish hot-blooded scrapper
Ronan and smudge-faced loner Noah.
I adored all of these kids, and I kept on loving them straight through. They made
this story for me: their voices, their backstories, and how flesh-and-blood-and-
bones real they felt. I read this book for them, and for their world (a strange, off-
kilter place that keeps on getting stranger as the story continues).
It also gave me some of the best fighting advice I’ve ever gotten from a novel, on
how to throw a good hook:
Hit with your body, not just your fist.
Look where you’re punching.
Elbow at ninety degrees.
Don’t think about how much it will hurt.
I told you. Don’t think about how much it will hurt.
But I do need to have a brief, spoiler-free word about the ending: I hated it. Everything was ticking along smoothly, action and adventure and rapid page turning, and then it ended. Right when everything was at it’s
most exciting it veered to a halt and started hastily trying to wrap up even though exciting things were still going on.
I know The Raven Boys is supposed to be part of a series, but I still feel
like I’ve been left asking a million and one questions and the book is blatantly
ignoring them all and I’m a little disappointed by that.
….But I’m still going to buy the next book.
This review was based on an advanced review copy supplied by Scholastic. Some parts of the story may
change in the final novel.